Jason is a successful corporate attorney. But it wasn’t long ago that he was growing up in a tough neighborhood, with little money, and enduring the stigma associated with his medical problems. In the middle of a busy day at the office, Jason often stops and wonders, “How did I possibly get here?” But he knows that he owes all his success to a college education -- and a community that supported his dream.
Due to persistence and academic success, Jason won a renewable $500 scholarship from his local Scholarship America Dollars for Scholars chapter, which was matched by his university through Scholarship America’s Collegiate Partners program. The net impact of that scholarship resulted in $4,000 towards Jason’s college education, allowing him to accomplish his dream of a college degree and a new beginning.
Stories like Jason’s are common throughout Scholarship America’s 50-year history. The organization was founded on the simple idea that if everyone in a community gave one dollar to support local students, they could make a big difference in college attendance. And they were right: so far, two million students have benefited as a result.
When Scholarship America was founded in 1958, average tuition at public school was only a few hundred dollars, yet families still struggled. Today, with college costs at an all-time high and student loan debt totaling over $1 trillion, community support through scholarships has never been more important.
So, is college worth it?
Many Americans are beginning to seriously consider whether the economic benefits of earning a postsecondary degree outweigh the huge cost of attendance. The answer is a resounding yes -- for individuals, for entire communities, and for America as a whole. According to a report by the College Board,
Earning a college degree remains one of the most lucrative investments a person can make. The average earnings of a Bachelor’s degree holder are nearly twice as much as those of a worker with only a high school diploma.
College graduates contribute more to the economy -- spending more money, paying more taxes, and volunteering more in the community.
College graduates are more likely to have access to quality health care, volunteer in the community, save money for retirement and have the ability to send their own children to college.
How can a community help its students achieve the dream of a college degree?
Never has there been a better time for communities to step up and support local students, whether they’re trying to graduate from a technical, community or 4-year college. Here are a few ways that communities can help:
Provide renewable scholarships to students in their communities. “The only thing worse than graduating with debt is NOT graduating but still having student loan debt to repay,” said Scholarship America President & CEO, Lauren Segal, during a recent speech at the Aspen Institute. “Private scholarships are more important than ever before, and a key requirement is an increase in the available renewable scholarships, those that distribute dollars each year the student is enrolled.”
Provide emergency financial assistance, especially to support local students who choose community colleges or trade/certificate programs. Unexpected financial emergencies are reported as one of the top reasons community college students drop out of school.
Start a Dollars for Scholars affiliate. More than just the impact of scholarships, Dollars for Scholars has united communities in a common effort, mobilized citizens to support higher education and provided inspiration and encouragement to students from all walks of life.
For students, earning a college degree leads to increased job satisfaction and increased pay. For communities across the country, an educated citizenry leads to greater civic engagement, higher tax revenues and less crime. For America, it allows us to remain competitive in a global economy. Never before in our nation’s history have we had so much to gain from helping people achieve their dream of a college education.